STATEMENT TO THE PRESS AND THE PUBLIC BY THE PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION PARTIES ON THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY AND THE RE-APPOINTMENT OF GAJRAJ AS MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS APRIL 14TH, 2005




Parliamentary Opposition of Guyana
Parliament Building
Georgetown
Guyana

The Parliamentary Opposition Parties have noted the Report of the Commission of Inquiry, unilaterally established by President Jagdeo to determine whether there was any “evidence of a credible nature” to link the Minister of Home Affairs to the specter of Death Squads in Guyana, and are appalled that, in the face of its findings of impropriety on the part of the Minister, Ronald Gajraj has been reappointed as Minister of Home Affairs. This latest response of President Jagdeo and his Government to the call for a full and proper investigation into Death Squads is a further act of contempt for the people of Guyana and yet another manifestation of the Administration’s total disregard for the Constitution and the norms of decency in Government.

Citizens may recall that in a press statement dated Saturday 15th May, 2004 the Opposition Parties stated that the Commission of Inquiry, set up after several months of demonstrations in the streets and procrastination on the part of the Administration, did not meet the minimum conditions for independence and for internationally accepted standards and norms that had been outlined and made clear to the government, to the citizens of Guyana and the international community.

Among the minimum requirements proposed were that such an Inquiry must of necessity be accompanied by a credible and secure witness protection program, allow a role for Caricom and other international organizations, have the power to take evidence in camera as well as in public and have the authority and resources to take evidence both inside and outside of Guyana. The fact that the only witnesses to appear had to be subpoenaed is a clear indication that the conditions were not created for proper evidence to be made available to the Commission.

The Parliamentary Opposition Parties had also stated that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry was a travesty as the Terms of Reference were “ woefully inadequate, narrow and not intended to ensure that the truth will be unearthed and the guilty bought to justice”, restricted as they were to the culpability of the Minister and excluding the issues which contributed to the violence that had engulfed the society since 2002, including violent crime and eruptions of insecurity and communal violence in communities such as Buxton, Annandale, Enterprise and others. We had also drawn attention to the fact that the President had pronounced on the innocence of his Minister even as he was in the act of appointing the Commission of Inquiry.

Despite the limitations identified by the Opposition parties, the Commission of Inquiry has clearly indicted the Minister with unlawful acts and other acts of impropriety, including his issuance of firearms’ licenses without investigation and either giving tacit approval or being indifferent to the activity of contract killings by Axel Williams. The evidence of Gajraj himself indicates that he perjured himself when he initially stated on National Television that he did not know Axel Williams. Instead, the Commission has found that “the special relationship which developed between Minister Gajraj and Axel Williams was very unhealthy for the Minister since it became difficult for anyone, apprised of the fact that Axel Williams was an operative of the Minister in the area of public safety and security, to distinguish between acts done by Williams on his own behalf and those done by him as an operative agent of the Minister.”

Instead of dealing with this Report in a responsible manner, the PPP Administration has embarked upon a propaganda campaign to proclaim the innocence of the Minister and consequently, with the agreement of the entire Cabinet, as announced, reinstated Ronald Gajraj to be responsible for security matters of the Nation. The Constitution does not provide for Cabinet appointment of any Minister. That is the prerogative of the President, but the fact that the Administration goes to that extent to explain the reappointment of Gajraj is a clear indication of their awareness of the inappropriateness of the decision and an attempt to provide a fig-leaf for the indiscretion of the President. The question that must now be asked is how much more is being covered up?

The Government has by its actions clearly disregarded the calls by Guyanese to investigate the existence of death squads and the criminal violence on the East Coast of Demerara, which represent a profound violation of the rule of law and the constitutional rights of citizens and pose a clear and present danger to the stability and existence of the State. The people of Guyana are left with little alternative but to conclude that the Government of Guyana has a vested interest in suppressing the truth.

The Parliamentary Opposition Parties, having considered these developments at a recent meeting resolved that we will temporarily withdraw from the activity of Parliament this afternoon to register our disgust and rejection of the reappointment or Ronald Gajraj as Minister of Home Affairs. We will, however, in the interest of dealing with important matters of State, continue to participate in important deliberations in the National Assembly but reserve the right to take appropriate action in the future against this flagrant insult to the National Assembly of the Parliament and the people of Guyana.

We urge President Jagdeo to reconsider this most dangerous and provocative course of action, particularly in the context of the very volatile situation in Guyana and of local and international expectations.

WORKING PEOPLES ALLIANCE (WPA)
RISE ORGANISE AND REBUILD (ROAR)
PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM (PNCR)

PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Georgetown, Guyana,
Thursday April14, 2005